Tales in Archive Stock taking: Part 1

Consolidation and Appraisal

We’ve been a little quiet on the blog of late and this is due to the fact that over the last two weeks we’ve been conducting our first ever stock take! While we counted and listed all the treasures the exercise gave us the opportunity to consolidate, appraise, re-package, re-arrange and in some cases re-discover our wonderful collections.

But before we could create this wonderful vision of archival Utopia we first (of course) had to make more mess. This included the unpacking and appraisal of one of our larger collections we have on a course that used to run at DMU in its poly days: the Building Studies collection was donated by its Head of Department, Janet Wood on her retirement and was in desperate need of some TLC.

And that’s just what it got!!! First of all, having suffered somewhat of a diaspora in the strong room we located all the boxes and set to work: all three of us, plus two volunteers, Ky and Helen, began unpacking, appraising and listing the contents, and then repackaging.

On the day, the process reminded me of the previous night’s TV viewing of Game of Thrones (Season 7 Episode 5, SPOILER WARNING) where Sam and Gilly are steadfastly trawling through the old books and records in search of some vital information on how to defeat the White Walkers. As Gilly recounts how one keen cataloguer makes a note of all of his bowel movements as well as how many stairs and windows there are in the citadel they overlook the importance of the recording of Rhaegar’s annulment. Dun Dun Duhhhh.

While demonstrating that archives might not always be glamorous they are often at the centre of a good narrative, and developing some sifting skills will certainly help sort the collections from the hoardings.

Building Studies degree show brochures from the 1980s

Now much more accessible (because we know what is in it and where it is) the collection  sits beautifully all in one place in the strong room awaiting the next stage – itemisation.

Several collections underwent a similar process of re-organisation, such as some of the university committee minutes and press cuttings:

The press cuttings were a particular challenge as I discovered three different systems of arrangement but I decided that the most obvious was best: Month and Year!!!

While beauty is indeed in the eye of the beholder, for the archivist, beauty really does lie in organisation and orderliness!

Re-packaged textile boards from the D/067 McGeoch Collection

Coming soon: Tales in Stock Taking Part 2: how NOT to store your collections.



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